The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Montour County

April 25, 2014

Awareness key ally in drug battle

DANVILLE — DANVILLE — Approximately 80 community members were in attendance for a special drug and alcohol awareness program hosted by the Danville school district and Rep. Kurt Masser.

A free meal at 5 p.m. preceded the speaking event at 6:30 p.m. at the Danville Middle School Auditorium, which featured Masser, two former substance abusers and George Rutherferd, acting executive of White Deer Run Chemical Center, in Allenwood.

Local law enforcement also displayed different pieces of drug paraphernalia outside the auditorium before the presentation. Mahoning Township Police Chief Bob Blee said quite a few parents came to his booth to learn about modern drug abuse. Half were aware of what to look for and the other half were not, Blee said.

Several informational breakout sessions were held during the evening as well.

At the start of the speaking presentations, Masser thanked the audience for joining him tonight before inviting Danville Police Chief Eric Gill to the podium.

“I’m not really speaking to you as a police officer, but as a parent of four children,” he said. “I’ve seen too many unnecessary deaths over the years,” he said.

While some may think that drug use is influenced solely by media and peer pressure, “parents are what guide our children,” he said. He quoted a recent survey that said more than half of teens who did not try marijuana credited their parents as a determining factor in their decision.

“We need to fight back, educate ourselves, to teach our children to say no,” he said.

Following Gill was a man who was only identified as “Scott,” a drug court graduate. Scott told the audience how he had been an addict for about 20 years. Drugs “took about everything of value in my life,” he said. “I allowed it to happen” and still could not quit.

Eventually, his drug use drove everyone out of his life, including his wife and children. Near the end of his time as an addict, he found a treatment group that helped him quit. “They loved me and I was a pretty unlovable person when I came in,” he said. “That helped me get on this road called recovery.” He is now pursuing a Master’s degree in Christian Counseling.

Another former addict, identified as “Chris,” talked about how his addictions destroyed a lot of his relationships. “Everyone who knows me went through hell and back, and I never wanted that,” he said.

His advice to parents was not to cover up or enable for their children. “If you need to put them jail, put them in jail,” he said. His own mother put him in jail for his drug use, and it eventually got through to him, he said. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, to get clean and stay clean,” he said.

Rutherferd talked about his brother’s struggle with drug addiction. At one point, he realized that the person he had been talking to for so long was no longer the family member he knew.

“I was looking at the face of a disease,” he said, recounting how his brother regularly stole from other family to fund his habit.

His brother eventually kicked the habit. “Talking to my brother again for the first time was a joy,” Rutherferd said.

“My job is to work myself out of a job,” he said. “My goal is to no longer be necessary” due to the lack of drug abuse.

“Your attendance is one piece of many pieces needed to fight this epidemic,” Masser said, offering closing remarks for the program.

He talked about his niece, Erika, who died of a heroin overdose this past November. He said he never would have guessed someone like her would die from an overdose. Involved were two men who Masser described as good kids “who made life-changing, horrible choices.”

Parents of addicts often feel shame about coming forward, but that stigma needs to be removed, he said, because “addiction is a disease.”

“It’s up to you what your country will look like, your state will look like, your hometown will look like,” he said to the audience.

Email comments to rstoneback@thedanvillenews.com.

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